What Is An IPX Rating?” is a common question that comes up in the world of headphones – especially if you’re looking for some earbuds or headphones that can withstand a sweaty workout or a run in the rain. It’s also a key feature to factor into your purchasing decision (if you don’t want to regret it). 

This post will teach you everything you need to know about how an IPX rating affects headphone and earbud performance. (Chances are you’re someone who likes to listen to music while you’re running, hiking, swimming, or doing another physical activity where you’ll work up a sweat.)

We spend our hard-earned money on technology like this, so it’s nice to have all the information we need before letting go of it. 

If your headphone packaging reads something like this: “IPX6”, that means that the manufacturer has not included (or tested for) any dust protection measurement. The “X” basically serves as a placeholder for the IP dust score. (Keep in mind that this post won’t include the dust-resistant IP code section.) Most of the activities we briefly went over above don’t require extensive knowledge about dust and dirt protection anyways, right?

By the end of this, you’ll be able to tell all your friends about what the different levels of water-resistance and waterproofing that certain models of headphones have – and why it’s important. 

Here are the 3 main categories we’ll go over:

  1. Sweat-proof/Sweat-resistance levels
  2. Water-resistance levels
  3. Waterproof levels


Ready to get started? Let’s dive in and explore what it means!

What Is An IPX Rating?

When you buy a new pair of headphones (especially anything that’s labeled as being for “sports”, “weather-resistant”, or “sweat-proof”) chances are there will be an IPX rating somewhere on the packaging. 

The “IP” stands for Ingress Protection. What does “ingress” mean? Let’s take a look at the definition from Dictionary.com:


What Is An IPX Rating? - Learn More Here


Knowing that, now you can put two and two together. Ingress + Protection makes perfect sense for describing how well a piece of gear will hold up against foreign intrusions

This could be protection against dust, water, rain, sweat, or dirt. There is a pretty wide range of actual ratings used to describe a specific headphone’s resistance rating. For this post, we’ll just be covering the different levels of moisture/water protection. 

Sweat Resistance – What If I Sweat… A Lot?

“Sweat-resistant” headphones and earbuds are often labeled without any official rating. You would be wise to keep these out of the water and away from jets or splashes of water. 

What Is An IPX Rating? - Learn More Here

Sweat-Proof – Run As Fast As You Want!

You’ve probably seen some headphones with “sweat-proof” on their packaging. These types of ‘phones aren’t protected nearly as much as ones that carry a higher ingress protection score. 

Headphones like the Powerbeats3 are considered “sweat-proof”. When you go to the gym or for a run, most of these types of earbuds/’phones will be fine to use (even without an official rating). 

Headphones and earbuds that have a rating in this category carry a lower IPX score and sometimes don’t have an official one at all. 

‘Phones in this category should never be dunked in a glass or pool of water (unless you don’t mind having to buy a brand new pair). 

What Is An IPX Rating? - Learn More Here

Ratings in this category include:

  • IPX0 (ZERO water-resistance)
  • IPX1 (safe for a few small water drops)
  • IPX2 (safe for water drops at a 16 degree angle)


Safe Practical Uses For This Category

Headphones and/or earbuds with ratings under this category are safe for pretty intense workouts, a few drops of rain/water, but for the most part, try to keep them as dry as possible. 

If a pair of earbuds doesn’t have an official ratings, it’s always safer to err on the side of caution and limit over-exposure to moisture. 

Water Resistance – What If It Rains?

In the middle of the moisture-resistant spectrum is water resistance. Devices with ratings under this category can withstand minor splashes of water – all the way to water jets from any direction. 

Usually, lower level water resistant headphones are labeled as being “water-resistant” or “sweat-proof”.


Ratings in this category include:

  • IPX3 (safe for sprays of water at a 60 degree angle)
  • IPX4 (safe from splashing water in any direction)

What Is An IPX Rating? - Learn More Here

Safe Practical Uses For This Category

Audio gear that falls under this category is suitable for minor water spills, dripping sweat exposure, and a few more drops of rain/water than the previous section. 


Watch this short video below to see the BeatsX Wireless tested in rain and the shower



Once again, I don’t recommend testing your gear out like this (especially without an official water-resistant rating) since you can’t reverse any damage that you might cause, but it is nice to see a real-life demonstration.

Water-Proof – Can I Swim With Them?

There are some pairs of headphones that you can fully submerge underwater (at depths of up to 3+ feet). A lot of the newer “true wireless” earbuds have a pretty high IPX rating. Some examples can be found here. 

Most of us have had the experience of accidentally leaving an electronic device in our pockets and throwing them in the washer without thinking twice about it. 

It seems pretty logical to assume that devices under this umbrella might still perform just as well as before you threw them in the wash on accident. Due to the temperature of the washing machine, they most likely won’t. (Either way, it’s generally advisable not to test that theory.)

Taking water-proof to the next level, there are certain pairs of earbuds specifically designed for swimming. A pair like the Swimbuds SPORT are waterproof at up to about 3 feet, fully submerged. 

What Is An IPX Rating? - Learn More Here

An even more impressive underwater model is the H20 Audio Surge+ Sports Headphones. You can put them in your ears and swim up to 12 feet-deep while still listening to your music (they have an IPX8 rating).


Here’s a video of a swimmer describing his experience using a pair of fully-waterproof headphones:


Ratings in this category include:

  • IPX5 (safe from water jets in any direction)
  • IPX6 (safe from powerful water jets in any direction)
  • IPX7 (safe at a depth of up to 3 feet underwater)

What Is An IPX Rating? - Learn More Here

  • IPX8 (safe at a depth of over 3 feet underwater, sometimes up to 15 ft.)

What Is An IPX Rating? - Learn More Here

Safe Practical Uses For This Category

Earbuds and headphones with the rating in this category are suitable for use during a run in a rainy downpour, quick submersion (to show off to your friends), and even for taking a full dip in the pool or hot tub. 

Although you can take some headphones for a swim, it’s always a good idea to double check your model’s rating either at the manufacturer’s website, or on the packaging it came with. 

Was Your Question Answered? 

Was your original question “What Is An IPX Rating?” answered? Did we provide enough information to help it make sense? For the most part, checking the packaging (or manufacturer’s website) for your specific headphone model is the easiest way to avoid taking any reckless watery risks.

What Is An IPX Rating? - Learn More Here

If you’re not sure what the official rating is (or if your ‘phones have one) I recommend doing a search on Google just to be safe. (None of us want to accidentally ruin our favorite pair of headphones or earbuds because we were curious about how well they would hold up underwater.) It’s important to take care of your audio gear, so it’ll keep taking care of you.

You can always bookmark this page for future reference on the different categories of water-proof levels. If you have any questions or comments, leave them below! I always do my best to respond as quickly as possible. 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like reading about the difference between open back vs. closed back headphones here. Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you here again!


Sonic Elevation: Ride The Waves. 

4 thoughts on “What Is An IPX Rating? – Learn About It Here!”

  1. Great post, I found this information very useful as I am about to replace my old headphones. I have never heard of the IPX rating before.

    I use my headphones when I go running and the weather can be bad here (UK) so would you recommend IPX 2 or 3 for me?

    1. I’m glad you found the information useful Nick. I would recommend you take a look at this post. If you’re primarily using your headphones/earbuds for running (especially outside) these are 10 great picks to take a look at.

      If the weather gets pretty stormy, rainy, or anything similar – I would recommend something with a higher IPX rating. I would shoot for something closer to the IPX5 or IPX6 range.

      That way, you’ll be prepared for pretty much any weather condition while running.

      Hope that helps, thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hey Dom,
    I love when I learn something new. First, I would have never known about an IPX rating before looking for headphones. You made it clear what it means and why it can help in choosing a model.

    Second, headphones for swimming? Wow. I never even considered that and I used to swim on a team. Of course, that was some time ago when earbuds weren’t even a consideration. Just bulky headphones in my day.

    Great coverage on the topic. I probably would have glossed over the whole IPX information (which I can see now is important) before coming across your review.


    1. Hey Jim,

      I’m glad you were able to soak up the information. It’s definitely an easy thing to overlook if you’re not aware of what it means, as you mentioned. I wasn’t that aware of headphones for swimming either, until recently!

      It’ll be nice to have the info stored away in the back of your mind for the next time you look for waterproof headphones (or some that you can swim with).

      Thanks for stopping by to learn about IPX ratings, I appreciate your comment. 🙂

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